A young African American woman named Henrietta Lacks was born and raised in Virginia in the 20th century. She was mother to 5 children and had lived in poverty. She had a brief life due to having cervical cancer which is the cancer of the cells in the cervix. She had lots of struggles throughout her life, despite all that she worked hard for her family and lived her life to the fullest. Her unfortunate illness, has helped millions of people. Rebecca Skloot, a young woman who came across Henrietta Lacks in class, was intrigued with her. She wanted to right a book about her, what’s a better source than Henrietta’s family themself. Beginning with her daughter, Deborah Lacks. The book that was published in 2010 and an article titled, Henrietta Lacks’ Immortal Cells written by Sarah Zielinski, in where she discussed the morally correct issues on how the Lacks’ weren’t pleased about how doctors had taken advantage of their mothers cells and had used them as research without permission. Sometimes you have to make decisions for the greater good and sometimes it doesn’t make everyone happy, like in this case.
The hospital that had used the cells without permission was John Hopkins Hospital, located in Baltimore, Maryland. Doctors and scientists would avoid using Henrietta’s real name by calling them HeLa cells according to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The family was also intensely involved in the research, with doctors using the family’s genes without the consent of the family. In the book it states, the last thing he remembered before falling unconscious under the anesthesia was a doctor saying his mother’s cells were one of the most important things that had ever happened to medicine. Sonny woke up in more than $125,000 in debt because he didn’t have health insurance to cover the surgery. The family had made no money in the discoveries. The family had financial struggles. According to the article that I had mentioned before, it took almost a year even to convince Deborah to talk to Rebecca because she knew Rebecca was desperate to learn about her.
HeLa cells were such an astounding use to medicine. HeLa has helped doctors and scientists with many things. According to the article, scientists had sent the cells to space to see how they would react and adapt in zero gravity. During the space mission, a chemical was accidentally spilled on a cell and spread out its tangled chromosomes, in which we discovered, instead of 48 chromosomes, which we initially thought was right, there was instead 46 chromosomes with 23 pairs. Doctors also used it to test the polio vaccine.
Both the book and article deliberate about the ethical and morally correct conflicts on how the Lacks’ were upset on how their family was taken advantage of, regarding the usage of their genes and the cells of their late mother, without permission. It’s kind of up for debate, because many people think if Henrietta was alive she wouldn’t mind the hospital using her cells for research purposes. HBO has turned this story into a movie based on the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that premiered on April 22nd, 2017. It told how Rebecca Skloot had found the true story of the Lacks family.